Alessio dragged her back up the steps regardless. ‘I’d like to see some proof of your proficiency before I risk standing around while you drown.’
Infuriated by her inability to strike an impressive note of injured dignity around Alessio, Daisy snatched up a towel to dry her face, pushing her tangled hair out of her eyes with furious hands. ‘You make me so mad sometimes, I could scream!’
‘“O lady, speak again!”’ Alessio quoted with deep irony.
It took a second or two for Daisy to absorb the shock of Alessio throwing lines of Shakespeare at her. ‘Romeo and Juliet?’ she scorned with a curled lip. ‘I don’t think so. And I am not playing Desdemona to your Othello!’
‘It would indeed be difficult.’ Alessio elevated a winged brow sardonically. ‘Desdemona didn’t have a past that encompassed half the men in the UK.’
‘How dare you?’ Daisy gasped in outrage.
In thunderous silence, Alessio peeled off his sodden jeans and shirt, his rough, impatient movements lacking his usual grace and cool. Mesmerised against her will, Daisy watched him execute a perfect dive and plough in a fast, aggressive crawl through the water.
Walking to the edge, Daisy waited for him to hit the side and crouched down in readiness. ‘You think I made love with every one of them, don’t you?’
Stormy golden eyes struck hers like forked lightning. ‘What do you think?’ Alessio bit back with slashing derision, and launched into another deeply aggressive length of the pool.
The next time he touched base, Daisy murmured, ‘Alessio...?’
‘I don’t want to know,’ he grated, and, planting his hands on the tiled edge, he hauled himself up, water streaming from his lean, powerfully muscled body in rivulets that glistened on his bronzed skin. Watching him, Daisy found it extraordinarily hard to recall what she had been about to say. Inflating her lungs again was even more of a challenge. He strode past her stark naked and stood towel-drying his hair.
‘Put your eyes back in your head and look the other way like a lady, Daisy,’ Alessio advised silkily with his back turned to her.
A deep crimson flooded her cheeks. ‘I—’
‘I can feel you looking at me. I always could.’
‘It’s a little hard to ignore a naked man.’
‘Is it? Do you recall that nudist beach I once took you to? You welded shut your eyes and hung onto your bikini like it was the only thing that stood between you and moral damnation!’
‘That must have given you a laugh.’
‘Actually... it shamed me into taking you home.’
‘About those albums—’
‘Piccola mia, you are not as a rule this persistent. I have no desire to talk about your rogues’ gallery of photographic trophies.’
‘I haven’t had a single serious relationship since our divorce!’ Daisy admitted grudgingly.
‘Tell me something that might surprise me,’ Alessio drawled in sardonic invitation.
Daisy paled. ‘Oh, yes, I forgot... I’m such a shallow person, aren’t I? I’d be wasting my breath telling you anything.’
As she attempted to brush past him, Alessio caught her arm in a powerful grip and yanked her back. ‘No more running away,’ he spelt out grimly.
‘Let go of me!’ Daisy blazed.
Instead he took her mouth in a hard, punishing kiss. Her world swung violently and dizzily on its axis, her legs buckling as his tongue stabbed between her lips in an expression of raw, hungry need. She struggled to resist and then surrendered as a river of fire ignited low in the pit of her stomach. With a moan of helpless response, burned by the ferocious heat of his desire, Daisy wrapped her arms round his throat.
‘I’m still not speaking to you,’ she mumbled shakily. ‘I want you to know that.’
‘I’m a jealous, possessive toad. We both know it. What is there to discuss?’ Alessio demanded unevenly, divesting her of her bikini top and letting his hands rise to cup her bared breasts with a shameless groan of appreciation. ‘Dio...I would burn a thousand years in purgatory for this alone!’
Crushing her to him, he lifted her high in his arms and carried her into the villa. ‘The staff...?’ she began.